Mountains that rise from the seafloor, called seamounts, represent one of the most common ecosystems on earth, say scientists from the NOAA and Texas A&M University–Corpus Christi.
Their findings reverse previous beliefs about the prevalence of seamounts, which they say are "treasure troves" of marine biodiversity. The results are published in Oceanography.
Although researchers have thoroughly explored some 200 seamounts and mapped and sampled a hundred others, this study is the first to estimate that more than 45,000 seamounts dot the ocean floor worldwide — a total of roughly 28.8 million square kilometers or an area larger than the continent of South America.
The discovery was made possible using satellite altimetry data that measured incredibly slight changes in the sea surface height that, along with statistical analysis models, indicated the presence of these submerged mountains.
Locations of some of the world's major seamounts
(photo credit: wikipedia)
"Seamounts are biodiversity 'hotspots', with higher abundance and variety of life forms than the surrounding seafloor," said Tom Shirley, Ph.D., a conservation scientist with the Harte Research Institute at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. "In fact, new species are observed or collected on nearly every submersible dive." Two dozen new species of corals and sponges, for example, have been collected from seamounts in the Gulf of Alaska since 2002.
Seamounts not only make up the largest area of ocean habitat, they are also highly productive environments that can serve as habitats for important commercial fish species like orange roughy and sablefish, the researchers say.
"Unlike beaches or even coral reefs, most people will never see a seamount, but this study shows that they are clearly one of the predominant ecosystems on the planet," said Peter Etnoyer, Ph.D., amarine biologist at NOAA's Center for Coastal Environmental Health and Biomolecular Research. "We can only hope that through this study, people begin to realize what a vast unknown the ocean represents, and what a vital role it plays on Earth."
Citation: Peter J. Etnoyer, John Wood, and Thomas C. Shirley, 'How Large Is the Seamount Biome?', Oceanography, March 2010, 23(1)
- PHYSICAL SCIENCES
- EARTH SCIENCES
- LIFE SCIENCES
- SOCIAL SCIENCES
Subscribe to the newsletter
Stay in touch with the scientific world!
Know Science And Want To Write?
- Part II: Bee Deaths And CCD - Flawed Chensheng Lu Harvard Studies Endanger Bees
- Part I: Bee Deaths Mystery Solved? Neonicotinoids (Neonics) May Actually Help Bee Health
- Surveys Show Global Warming Belief Doesn't Change With The Weather
- The BPA Paradox – Too Many Studies?
- Reasons Serious Scientists Should Not Fear The Winnower and other OA Open Review Journals.
- Education: Stop New Age Thinking, Chalk And Talk Might Be The Best Way After All
- Big Data Could Be A Big Problem For Workplace Discrimination Law
- "Where's the beef?..."
- "Your statement is outrageous. What mistake have I made? Please elaborate. The scientists quoted..."
- "I think that is due to the Winnower being in Beta. ..."
- "Jon, I think that with all due respect you have made a serious mistake with this article which..."
- "I am a leftist. I am for a revenue-nuetral carbon tax. Having the CO2 externalities part of the..."
- News from Annals of Internal Medicine Supplement
- Boy moms more social in chimpanzees
- Unmanned underwater vehicle provides first 3-D images of underside of Antarctic sea ice
- CT scans of coral skeletons reveal ocean acidity increases reef erosion
- Study finds way to conserve soil and water in world's driest wheat region